1. Life is just...different...once football season starts. For those among us who feel similarly this time of year, the calendar is kind of divided up into gamedays and the leadup to gamedays. In the days right before a game, the feeling of anticipation makes everything else in life seem a little better. Just the prospect of a Redskin victory puts a shine on those mundane aspects of life that are otherwise...shineless (or dull, if you prefer). The days following a loss are clouded by, uhhhh, clouds? You get the point. Winning and the prospect of winning makes life awesome. Losing and dealing with being a losing team makes the world a sadder place, relatively speaking. (Note: given the serious headlines these days both locally and worldwide, I figure it makes sense to ensure that people understand that we maintain perspective. Sports is our escape, but we realize not everyone can escape.)
2. You all know how I feel about the preseason. These games are nothing more than Glorified Practices, but please don't take that to mean I am not glued to the action, or that my life isn't somehow hanging on the outcome. I care about these games immensely. Maybe it is because we haven't been "great" for so long, but the ability to watch my favorite team without having to care about the 'W' or 'L' is extremely liberating. I thoroughly enjoy watching the individual matchups. I thoroughly enjoy being able to feel good about the manner in which one-on-one battles are won by the guys in burgundy and gold. When it doesn't matter if the team wins or loses, there are so many other wins and losses contained inside of a preseason game that we are able to both enjoy and lament.
3. Firmly on the "enjoy" side is the manner in which our team displayed toughness against New England. I know that guys are fighting for jobs and that this results in more intensity in general, but it seems that the coaching staff is really looking for--and getting--a bit more of a fight on the field. Of course, carrying it over into the regular season is the big question, as well as seeing if this level of intensity will come from the front-line players once they have secured their jobs. It seems odd to even make something of this, as the game of football is a pretty violent game and requires maximum effort and toughness just to survive. Still, isn't it easy to see during the regular season which teams are the toughest? I mean, not every back runs with the kind of violence that Marshawn Lynch employs on each carry. Truth be told, not every running back is capable of it. Every team has guys like that, but not every team seems to embrace that mentality for 60 minutes at a time over 17 weeks. Some coaches seem to bring it out of their teams. Jeff Fisher is a coach that I have always admired for the way his teams maintain toughness right through December. Other coaches struggle with this...I seem to recall an ol' ball coach around these parts that failed to inspire a great deal of toughness from his squad for 17 weeks.
4. Watching a running back put a punishing hit on a would-be tackler is one of my favorite things to see. It always--ALWAYS makes me think of the old-school guys that even I am too young to really remember watching live, but grew up watching on NFL Films videos. Guys like Earl Campbell and Walter Payton made a point to be the hitter whenever possible, as opposed to the hittee. I thought Silas Redd did this last Thursday, and to a certain extent, so did Lache Seastrunk (Alfred Morris also finishes his runs, but I was thoroughly enjoying watching the young guys race up the field and clobber tacklers.)
5. One word you just don't want to hear used to refer to your preseason performance: "lackluster." I think we succeeded in avoiding that after one week of preseason football. I guess this is what I am getting at with all this toughness talk. I really want Jay Gruden to be the kind of coach who brings a hard-hitting team into stadiums all the way through the winter months. I really want there to be such a thing as #GrudenTough. This is not to suggest Mike Shanahan ran a soft team, but as we learn more about the kind of culture and atmosphere Jay Gruden intends to foster in D.C., it is important that at the very least, we impose our will physically. One of the many lessons we learned last year from the Seattle Seahawks is that sometimes toughness is worth a few points, and can turn a game your way. In the playoffs especially, when teams are more evenly matched from a talent perspective, being the aggressor and putting the beating on your opponent gives you an edge at the end, when one or two plays in the final seconds will decide the game.
6. Wow...we went from talking about the beauty of the preseason and how we actually care about the little things in August to playoff football. Did I write a Sixpack or drink a Sixpack? Either way, we get a long week in between Glorified Practices, with our next contest coming next Monday. While I think it will be cool to see what Johnny Football is all about, I have not wasted more than two brain cells thinking about it. I don't even care so much about seeing the starters that we know we will have to rely on come September. I am living for that second half. I am living to see those third- and fourth-stringers fight their guts out on the field. I am living to see our main players on the sidelines with no pads, laughing and cheering on their teammates who are giving it everything they have to join them in the fall. In short, give me Lache Seastrunk and Ryan Grant and Silas Redd and Bashaud Breeland...the preseason is about the future, not just the immediate future, but also the long-term future. Here's hoping that our long-term future continues to look bright in the heat of August. Here's hoping that we have more wins than losses in the games within the games.